If there was ever a collaboration created by God, it would be this one – Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Lewis Carroll. Burton was absolutely the perfect choice to remake the classic Alice In Wonderland story, and although he’s had a mixed bag of remakes in the past (with the excellent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the dreadful Planet of the Apes rehash), there was no way he could stuff it up, especially with Depp on board. It’s unfortunate, then, to say that Alice isn’t a great film, but merely a very good one. It’s a charming, bizarre and surprisingly dark fantasy adventure that doesn’t exactly live up to the hype, but is a worthy take on the classic adventure. The film begins with a now 19 year old Alice (fresh faced Aussie Mia Wasikowska). Having forgotten her adventures in Underland when she was little, Alice falls down the rabbit hole once again, and is reunited with her friends the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas, from Little Britain), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and of course the Mad Hatter (Depp). When the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) finds out that Alice is in Underland to kill her Jabberwocky, she immediately wants her dead. Meanwhile, Alice and her ‘crew’, go off on a quest to find and kill the Jabberwocky to end the Red Queen’s evil reign. Alice In Wonderland’s biggest flaw is that its plotting is executed very poorly. It’s too simplistic and muddled, which is odd for such a high calibre director like Burton. You could just have two characters in this film- Alice and The Red Queen- and it would still work. All the other characters feel pretty pointless and feel as if they’re just there to fill in the plot gaps, which is exactly what they’re there for. Thankfully, the performances are all excellent enough to make up for the lack of characterisation. Wasikowska shines as Alice, coming off as a solid young performer, like a younger version of Gwyneth Paltrow. She could have gone the route of a sickly sweet, innocent, mummy’s girl, but instead she comes off very strong indeed. Depp is as reliable and radiant as ever. Seriously, you couldn’t imagine the Mad Hatter as anyone else. Bonham Carter is at her campy best and steals the film as the demanding Red Queen. She’s very amusing, as she orders “Off with their heads!” like running water, and uses a pig as a footrest. Anne Hathaway is a delight in an otherwise pointless role. And the voice cast, including Michael Sheen and Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, are all fantastic. Where Alice short falls, it makes up for with stunning visuals, all a combination of CGI, live-action and motion capture. Sometimes, there is a little bit too much of an over-reliance on CG, and that will annoy some, but it’s not an overly fatal flaw. Wonderland isn’t quite Pandora, but it’s good enough. There are many scenes, particularly the goosebump inducing opening, that are typical Burton. But others, like the final battle, could have been done by anyone else. This will disappoint die hard Burton fans. Others will just enjoy it for what it is. And that’s what Alice In Wonderland is; an enjoyable fantasy flick that ain’t for the kids. It’s a great return by Burton to his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory days. It’s a visual wonderland, where visuals surpass everything else, even if the rest of the film is a little underwhelming for those who were salivating for this.
But count on this on being one of the year’s biggest films.